A specialized neuron for God's face?

Does your brain have a neuron for recognizing Halle Berry’s face? Or Bill Clinton’s? My brain seems to have one for Reese Witherspoon, but that’s another post.

Research concluding that we do in fact have specialized facial recognition neurons was recently published in Nature and widely reported and commented on in the popular press and blogosphere.

First, I have a technical question. The article says:

The study involved eight patients, all of whom had been temporarily implanted with devices to monitor brain-cell activity as part of their treatment [for epilepsy].

Now how did the scientists determine that a single neuron had been activated? What kind of device is this, and how can it monitor the actvity of a single neuron? How does the data get back out? Can it monitor the activity over time? How many neurons can be watched? What layer of the cortex were these neurons in?

From a neurotheological perspective, what I am really interested in is whether a specific neuron might be mapped to the face of Jesus or other favorite religious figure. If so, perhaps we could then trace neural paths back to other areas involving religious feelings, perceptions, or emotions associated with the figure. Is it too much to ask that the researchers address this in the next stage of their investigations?

My mother once told me about a religious movie she had gone to see and commented that the lead actor “looked just like Jesus must have”. It would be intensely interesting for neurotheologists to understand the mechanisms underlying such an association.

One Response to “A specialized neuron for God's face?”

  1. Gina Burgess Says:

    I have heard of this. In my Social Psychology text book we had a brief but interesting article on research regarding this exact thing. Interesting what we perceive as beauty. Seems there’s this software that can integrate certain aspects of facial texture blending beautiful noses and eyebrows and mouths to make the #10 beautiful face. I would have liked to see that.

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